BY ELVINA NAWAGUNA AND JOHN T. BENNETTUpdated 4:26 p.m. | President Donald Trump said the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, fulfilling a campaign promise and handing victory to Republican lawmakers who had pushed for an exit from what they termed a bad deal that would put a drag on the U.S. economy.
Trump left open the possibility of re-entering the accord after renegotiating a “deal that’s fair.”
For now, however, the U.S. withdrawal from the 195-nation accord will be effective immediately, he said in a Rose Garden announcement on Thursday.
Staying in the agreement would cost U.S. workers and families “so much,” Trump said. He cited expected losses for the paper, cement, iron and steel, coal, and natural gas industries if the U.S. remained a part of the global pact as a collective reason to withdraw.
He also criticized it for failing to “live up to” the country's environmental standards, and said it “punishes” America while going easy on “the world's leading polluters.”
Trump’s decision puts the U.S. in the company of only two other nations — Nicaragua and Syria — that have decided not to participate in the global agreement reached in December 2015.
Anticipating a withdrawal, Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Senate Climate Clearinghouse, said Wednesday that doing so would be “a massive economic, security and moral failure” of Trump and his administration.
“Instead of keeping our promise to the world, Donald Trump would rather join Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega as the world leaders who refuse to participate in the Paris climate agreement,” he said in a statement. “Keeping an empty campaign promise is not more important than keeping our promise to the world to combat climate change.”
Trump has faced increasing bipartisan pressure over what direction to take. Democrats, environmentalists and some Republicans and corporations have implored him to stay in the deal, albeit for different reasons. But key GOP lawmakers, including Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a senior member of the committee, have adamantly pushed for an exit.
“I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States, which is what it does,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday. “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.”
Trump said he is willing to work with Democrats to negotiate for a climate deal that does not hamstring U.S. businesses and in which the “burdens and responsibilities are equally shared” among all the countries in the accord.
“So if the obstructionists want to work together with me, let’s make them non-obstructionists,” Trump said. “But until we do that, we are out of the agreement.”
Trump said the U.S. will also immediately stop contributing to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations-affiliated organization that helps developing nations adapt to and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.
Pressure to withdraw
In a letter last week, Barrasso, Inhofe and other Republicans argued that remaining in the Paris climate agreement would be “a serious hindrance to removing these burdensome regulations.”
And Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, as well as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — both vehement opponents of the Obama administration’s climate agenda and the Paris Agreement — are believed to have wielded a lot of influence on the president’s final decision.
The agreement that was championed by former President Barack Obama went into effect on Nov. 4 after enough countries had agreed to take steps to cut their carbon emissions as a way to slow the pace of global warming. The U.S. agreed to reduce its carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The agreement also requires nations to report on their progress and submit new, more ambitious targets every five years starting in 2020.
At the conclusion of May’s G7 Summit in Italy — which Trump attended — six world leaders agreed on a final communique reaffirming their commitment to the Paris accord. Trump did not participate in the statement.
“The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics,” the six leaders said in their statement. “Understanding this process, the Heads of State and of Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement.”
Domestic critics of the agreement, including Trump, have said it is a “bad deal” for the U.S. and would hurt fossil fuel industries. Conservatives also argue that it transfers wealth from the U.S. to benefit poorer countries.
But Republicans such as North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, who argued for the U.S. to remain in the deal, said it would be in the country’s best interest to stay and fight for a more lenient accord.
In April, Cramer, who helped shape Trump’s energy policy positions during the campaign, led a letter of nine GOP House members advocating that the U.S. renegotiate the global agreement’s goals for reducing climate-altering emissions from fossil fuels like coal and oil.
The letter said that the U.S. should use its position in the agreement to “defend and promote” the country’s commercial interests including manufacturing and the fossil fuel industry.
Democrats, environmental groups and some corporations have argued that climate change is an urgent problem that respects no global boundaries and that exiting the deal would undermine the country’s leadership position.
“Countries like Russia and China know that if the U.S. leaves, there is going to be opportunity for them,” Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland said last week.